After being in Greece for about a week and a half, the language barrier does not feel as strange as it did when we first got here. When I first arrived in Greece the culture shock was pretty overwhelming and it was pretty intimidating to be in a country where everyone spoke a different native tongue than mine. However, it doesn’t feel as odd now to to be hearing Greek all the time. It is also becoming less and less awkward to have someone asking me questions in Greek as I awkwardly shrug and smile. The other day the guys and I were waiting at a bus stop when a sparsely toothed older Greek man with a jolly face started walking towards me saying something in Greek. I stumbled over my tongue for a moment before getting out the words “I don’t speak Greek” which I don’t think he quite understood. As he started to get the message and walk away I let out what I remembered to be the Greek word for “I’m Sorry”. He chuckled and went on his way. This is when the guys reminded me that what I said was not “I’m sorry” but “thank you.” So this man walked up to some gentlemen probably asking something about the bus, and this foolish tourist says “blah blah blah THANK YOU.” We all laughed and laughed about it afterwards.
I have now found found beauty in the difference of language. It started when I was at the refugee center for a meal that we prepare every Tuesday. The majority of the refugees are from either Iran of Afghanistan, and their native tongue is Farsi. As all the refugees sat ready for the meal, a man whose first language was Farsi stood up front to translate and pray for the meal. As we bowed our heads and he prayed, I felt the holy spirit come over me in such a powerful way. Farsi is such a beautiful language. As he spoke I realized that our God is the God of all people. He speaks and moves and lives among all cultures and nations. God understands Farsi, Greek, English and all other languages. It was if God was patting me on the shoulder and saying “I live here too”. I have also learned the power of nonverbal communication by seeing how a smile or a handshake can go a long way. By giving the children candy and playing with them I communicate “I see you, you are valued”. By shaking the hands of the men and listening to their stories I communicate “I hear you and I care about you.” By putting my hand over my heart and looking down as I greet the Muslim women with “Salaam” I communicate “I respect you, and I honor your personal space” (It is considered very inappropriate for a woman to be touched by a man who is not her husband in Muslim culture, and even prolonged eye contact can be considered as a flirting). Today in Church God spoke to me again through the cultural barrier. We attended one of the few Evangelical Churches in Greece today. Evangelical Christians are a minority in Greece, with the dominant religion being Greek Orthodoxy, and the difference between them is vast. As the pastor spoke we listened through headphones while someone translated the Greek sermon into English. The sermon was wonderful, and the passion for the gospel was clearly present in that church. What really touched my heart was when the church stood and began to sing a hymn. It was in Greek and I did not understand the words and yet I could feel the praise going up to God in that place. I felt the love that everyone had for their Lord and the desire to worship Him. Understanding the words was not necessary. My soul understood.
These have been some thoughts from my trip, I speak for my whole team when I say that all your support and prayers are very much appreciated and felt very deeply here.
A brother in Christ